Simple Meals: Sunday dinners, 1913 and today

Simple Meals: Sunday dinners, 1913 and today

Simple meals. They’re the goal for any day of the week but especially useful on the weekends. If you are trying to avoid eating out and don’t want to deal with prepping meals ahead of time, it’s essential to be ready with some extra simple meals.

Here is one woman’s perspective on Sunday dinners, written in 1913. 

We need to learn to prepare this meal before hand so far as possible. With a little forethought this can be done easily, so that the Sunday dinner can be ready in fifteen or twenty minutes after you return from church.

simple meals, family looking at the oven

Most housekeepers prepare only two meals on Sunday, with a lunch in the evening, so they have an extra good dinner, but do not want to stay at home from church to prepare it. When the family have to wait an hour or more for dinner they are very apt to eat too hurriedly and too much and consequently have a headache the remainder of the day.

A Simple Meal, 1913 style

Roast chicken and mashed potatoes or roast beef, roast pork or chicken pie can be used for the substantial part of the dinner. Baked beans also make an excellent dish for this meal. Plan to do all that can be done on Saturday. Clean and stuff the chicken on Saturday, put it away in a cool place till morning. Every housewife should have a good roaster, a self baster is best. Before going to church place the chicken in the roaster, or the beef with the potatoes placed around it. The oven should be quite hot when the chicken is put in.

After doing this fix the fire so that it will give out a moderate heat. You will soon learn to do this and this portion of the dinner will be nicely done. Put the necessary water in the teakettle and place it on the stove. If you intend to have mashed potatoes, peel the potatoes, cutting into small pieces. While you are getting breakfast, put them into the kettle and cover with cold water.

As soon as you get home, before you change your clothes, turn out the cold water, and pour sufficient hot water from the teakettle and place on the stove. By doing this they will be done by the time the other food is ready. Make the coffee or tea and then you will only have to warm the baked beans and mash the potatoes. Pudding baked the day before can be used as dessert.

Simple Meals, modern style

What is it about cooking on Sunday that’s such drudgery? Maybe it’s just me. I don’t mind cooking any other day of the week but on Sunday I find myself dragging my heels. If it were up to me, we’d graze on popcorn, toast, and fresh fruit, but alas, it’s never entirely up to me. The people want a real meal. Everyone arrives home from church ravenous and there aren’t always enough leftovers.

a simple meal. Beef and Biscuit Rolls in a cast iron skillet

I’ve tried a few different strategies, but for me, the best solution has been this: I make the same meal every Sunday after church. Yes, the same one!

Maybe Sunday isn’t a difficult day for you to cook. Or maybe it’s a certain time of the day every week that you struggle to get a meal ready. It may not be something that you always need to do but it could be a short-term solution for a hard season. You can even do this for more than one meal during the week. Think of it as minimalism in the kitchen.

This strategy nearly automates the process. Once you choose the dish for that meal, you just keep the ingredients on hand, and any little bit of preparation will become almost automatic. Choose recipes that don’t need a lot of prep beforehand, either, since that defeats the purpose of a simple meal. After a few weeks or months (or when you feel some boredom creeping in), swap it for another menu or add another to the rotation.

A few simple meal suggestions

Here are a few simple meals that have been in my rotation over the years:

  • Baked Potatoes, cooked in a crockpot while you’re at church (or somewhere else). Just pull a variety of toppings out of the fridge–ham, bacon, cheese, broccoli, sour cream, onion, etc.
  • Salmon Patties: Mix together canned salmon, bread crumbs, dried onion flakes, salt/spices, egg or mayonnaise, and a little lemon juice and flour until you get the right consistency to pan-fry them.
  • Homemade Pizzas: use pre-made dough or English muffins
  • Hamburgers or hotdogs, cooked on the grill
  • Canned soup. Serve with crackers or whatever bread is handy

Variety may be the spice of life, but you don’t need to wow the masses at every single meal. Do you want to know something interesting about this? No one has ever complained about the lack of variety. I think there’s a certain comfort in the same old, same old.

5 Replies on “Simple Meals: Sunday dinners, 1913 and today

  1. This was a very good and encouraging post. I enjoyed the tips and need them so much these days because we seem to always go out after church and I know it is so expensive and I could easily make the same stuff (and do but not on Sunday) at home! Thank you.

  2. We have the same meal every other weekend. When my granddaughter visits, we reheat bought fried chicken and the kids always want mac n cheese from the box. I will make different sides for the adults. It’s a quick and easy meal to prepare since most of it just needs to be reheated after church.

    And for the longest time we had a homemade pizza every single Saturday. Unfortunately, we had family move in with us and they weren’t so fond of the pizza and asked that we have more variety. I still try to keep it really simple from Friday evening through Sunday evening. I can cook all week long and do so happily but come the weekend I just don’t want to even think about food.

  3. Salmon patties are one of my go to simple meals as well. I find adding the mayo really keeps them moist on the inside, or else it seems they get rather dry. I like to make a copycat Chickfila sauce to go with them and fried potatoes. Always a hit with my children.

    I need to do baked potato nights again, I forgot about that and it’s always such cheap and easy comfort food.

    Isn’t it funny how we can get caught up in thinking we need new and fancy meals, yet the familiar and simple meals are the ones my family asks me to make again and again. And they really do make the day to day so much easier.

  4. I am so thankful for crock pots nowadays! I try to have everything ready to pop into the slow cooker early in the morning before I start to do chores (feeding horses, dogs, etc) and then getting dressed, hair and makeup done. I usually fax a roast (our favorite is Mississippi Pot Roast with the potatoes and other veggies cooked in with the roast), or I make all the ingredients for tacos or nachos the day before, only having to heat up when we get home. Sometimes we have a potluck at a friend’s home, with us bringing the main dish and they supply the sides and drinks.

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